April 30, 2013 § 1 Comment
Raise your hand if you have ever watched a sunrise?
Not seen, but watched.
I have seen many sunrises but it was only until recently that I watched what actually happened as the sun’s light slowly edged its way across the earth. As the sun gradually peeks over the tops of the trees on the horizon, each part of the earth that it meets starts to glow. As each tree, rock, and blade of grass receives the sun’s radiance, it transforms from the dull shade of early morning to an awe-inspiring golden glow, and continues to bask in it until the sun eventually gets high enough in the sky to become daylight. I was mesmerized, watching the glow unhurriedly inch across the grass towards me, lighting up each thing in its path, including me! As I looked down at my dark coloured jacket, even it was glowing! Breathtaking.
Reminiscencing throughout the day afterwards, recalling how beautiful an experience it all was, it occurred to me that we are capable of doing the same for others.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the unpleasant experience of being “triggered”. When someone or something hits a button inside you that sets you off in the direction of anger, frustration, sadness, or whatever – it can be difficult to come out of that tailspin. But what if we triggered others, back to themselves?
I read a story recently of a woman whose washing machine had broken and so, deciding to create a teachable moment for her children, she decided to bring them along to the Laundromat to experience a coin-operated, out-of-the-comfort-of-home, laundry adventure. While there they watched as an older woman started swearing and grouching at the dryer when she realized she had put the coins in the wrong machine and her clothes had been sitting wet for the entire time. The mother watched as her daughter approached the older woman and offered her some of her own coins. Instantly, the face of the older woman fell, realizing how badly she had behaved, swearing and grouching in front of young children, and apologized immediately, thanking the young girl for her generosity. She had been triggered by the dryer, but then triggered right back by the generosity and kindness of the young girl!
How powerful! To trigger someone back to their true selves, back to their joyful, peaceful being, much in the same way that the sun coaxes a glow out of all it touches each morning. As if to strengthen this realization, I was offered an example in my own life shortly after.
In one of my typical Saturday morning rants, I was grouching at my kids for making such a mess, preaching to them about cleaning up after themselves and laying on a thick layer of guilt, asking why they would expect someone else to clean up all the messes they make. Sound familiar anyone? In the middle of my tirade, I suddenly felt a warm hug around my legs and a small voice say “I love you, Mommy”. With one small, brave gesture, my five year old had dissolved my frustration and triggered me back to myself, reminding me how blessed I am to be a mother.
And there was the glow.
Everything we need is within us. The next time you see someone who has been triggered into a tailspin, resist the temptation to judge or react. Respond with love. Choose kindness. Then be prepared to bask in the glow.
April 14, 2013 § 2 Comments
“Sorry, I’ve just been so busy. “
I was on my knees praying in church this morning when I had remembered something I forgot. Not a mission critical item, but a nice-to-do item that I had wanted to do, and meant to do, but didn’t. I had forgotten.
As I was beginning to think up the usual response (I’ve been busy), God interrupted and suggested to me that really, I haven’t. I haven’t been busy at all. I have been distracted.
So I started to think about the difference between busy and distracted. And like an unravelling tapestry, thoughts came to me of how quick we are to respond with “I’ve been so busy”, like it is an appropriate excuse for our behaviour. I started thinking about all the times I have heard the words: ” I’ve been busy”. Perhaps as an explanation for why we haven’t called a friend who we intuitively knew could use our support, but we got busy with our own life. Or when we say that we wish we could spend more time with loved ones, but we don’t make the effort because we are too busy. Or our response to someone who has used their time to do something unnecessary but kind : “they must have a lot of time on their hands!” Or when we say to our kids “I just gotta do this and then I can listen to what you’re saying”, as if they’ll still be in the excitement of that moment five minutes later when you are finished with your email.
We are not busy. We are distracted. Distracted from the moment we are in because we are thinking about the next hundred moments to come. Distracted by the guilt we would feel if we actually relaxed and enjoyed our family instead of evaluating the items on our to-do list that could fit into our Sunday afternoon at home. Distracted by the need to feel like we are doing, instead of being.
We are human beings, not human doings.
Yet when given the opportunity in a free moment, we pick up our smart phone, we sit down at the computer, or we flick on the TV. We make choices to fill our time. We are always doing, which feels like busyness, but really its distraction.
I don’t know how we got to the point where we need to feel busy all the time, nor do I think it matters. What matters is that we become aware of it, and decide that what is important is to enjoy the moment we are in.
Choose to call the friend who could use the support, and enjoy the feeling of connectedness that results.
Choose to spend time with loved ones, savoring all the unique personalities and strengths of who they truly are.
Choose to make time for those unnecessary, but kind acts, because they actually are necessary.
And choose to listen to our children in the moment that they are compelled to share with us. Because that excitement is fleeting, and they need an example that shows them that if we don’t live in our current moments, we won’t have any moments to cherish later.
Be brave enough to surrender to the moment.
Be still enough to hear that voice leading you to what is truly important
April 10, 2013 § Leave a comment
Whenever I speak to someone who has children in their teenage years, I consistently convey my admiration for their perseverance through that difficult parenting stage, and confess that those years intimidate me so much more than the younger years. People often ask me “how do you manage it with four?” and I tell them babies are easy once you have four, it’s the older years I have no idea what to do with! I can do diapers, nursing and baby food now with one hand tied behind my back, but teaching my kids about sex, why the internet can be dangerous, and why we’ve lied to them about Santa Claus, well, it’s a learning curve.
As my eldest now has broken the “double digit” threshold, I am developing a better understanding of how our parenting approach must evolve from protection, to preparation. In a recent blog post I recommended a book by Kay Wills Wyma called Cleaning House. It continues to open my eyes to new opportunities and realizations every time I pick it up. The years of having to be everything and do everything for my children are gradually transforming into teaching everything and modelling everything for my children – a much higher benchmark as it turns out…familiar with the old adage: “do as I say, not as I do”?
One terrific parenting technique I learned from a dear friend, that seems to be gaining some traction in our home, is the consequence of a “poor choice”. Every parent has been told that you aren’t supposed to call a kid “bad” when they screw up. It’s the behaviour that is bad, not the kid. True enough, but at the same time, they need to take ownership for making that choice and quickly gain an understanding of why they shouldn’t do it again. Mostly for their own safety and development of good judgement, but also to save the sanity of their parents.
So using the “poor choice” tactic, when your child acts in a way that makes you want to say “WTF?!”, you quickly explain to them that they have made a “poor choice”. Always important to explain why it was a poor choice, although my kids can usually glean some of that information by the level of my voice and accompanying body language. The technique then encourages you to provide a “job” as the consequence for making a poor choice. This is of course, steering away from the negative reinforcement of “punishment” (read: time outs, spanking, grounding, etc) and provides a more positive and constructive follow through. I was in jaw-dropping amazement when my friend told me she had her young children folding all the laundry through the use of this technique.
It took a few false starts (mostly on their mom’s consistency in execution, and creativity in deciding age-appropriate jobs), but we now have this machine well-oiled and expectations entrenched in our children that when they make a poor choice, they need to do a job. So results… you ask, has it successfully modified the frequency or intensity of the “poor choices”? Good question. I find that my curious and adventurous children find new areas every day in which fresh poor choices can be made, but as for the old ones, yeah, they don’t often repeat them. More importantly, my kids now know how to fold laundry, put it away, unload/load the dishwasher, take out the compost, and set the table among other things. I have been pleasantly surprised at how much more enjoyable my daily routine is without these items in it!
This technique has worked well enough, in fact that I have extended the concept into privileges also, and that my fellow parents, is working like a charm!
Let me give you an example. My kids love games, especially those of electronic origin. Being a BlackBerry family, we have no shortage of devices. So we implemented an “earned screen time” approach: “you wanna play, you gotta do a job first”. One large job or two smaller jobs will earn them one hour of screen time. If they want to play against each other, they each need to do a job. This sweet little gem has worked so effectively that my boys now go and do the job(s) prior to even asking for the screen time. Let me tell you, there are few things sweeter than waking up to your children folding their laundry and making their beds without being asked.
I think Kay Wills Wyma would agree, using the “job” technique is an effective one. And maybe with a little grace, we might even begin to prepare these children for life, not just protect them from it.